General News of Wednesday, 20 December 2017
The chiefs and people of Akropong the traditional capital of the Akuapem Traditional Area in the Eastern Region are bracing themselves up for imminent fierce and protracted litigation over the installation of a new Okuapehene following the nomination and subsequent confinement of two separate candidates by the “Right and Wrong from the Right from the Royal Sakyiabea House and the wrong from the Bemuhene of Akropong”.
The looming chieftaincy dispute started brewing around mid-2016 when a section of the kingmakers questioned the legitimacy of installing a candidate decorated with tattooed arms as the next occupant of the sacred Okuapeman royal seat.
Odehye Kwesi Akuffo is the chosen candidate from the Asona Royal family while the Bemuhene has selected Odehye Kojo Kesse.
Apart from the fact that the legitimacy and locus of the Bemuhene in choosing an Omanahene are being challenged, and is unprecedented from the 17s, his selection of Kojo Kesse is considered as even more sacrilegious because the candidate has “tainted” his body with tattoos, which is forbidden in the traditional areas.
The Asona Royal family strongly believes that, if the tattooed Kojo Kesse is installed, it would be an insult and an undignified tribute to the immediate-past Omanhene, the late Oseadeeyo Addo Dankwa III, who ascended the throne in 1974 at the age of 44, and brought honour to the area when he reigned continuously for 41 years before passing in August 2015.
The late King of the Akuapem Traditional Area held the “sacred seat” of the Akuapem-Asona – one of the seven major Akan clans – for 41 years. He is, therefore, reputed to be the longest reigning Okuapehene since the formation of the Akuapim State.
However, this legacy is being threatened by some of the kingmakers – led by the Bemuhene – who is ready to defy the time-tested tradition of disqualifying royals ‘tainted’ by scars and marks on the skin. They are defiant and insisting on imposing the disqualified candidate with tattoos on the body, which is considered a sacrilege in the traditional area.
To avert what was considered a sacrilege and ensure fair play, a committee was set up, chaired by Dr. Obuobisa Newman, Abusuapayin of the Sakyiabea Royal Family of Akropong Akwapem, to discuss the suitability of the four short-listed candidates.
The committee was made of:
1. Abrewatia Lily Agyeman
2. Odehye Ohene Frimpong (Secretary)
3. Nana Appiah Nti IV
4. Late Dr. F. W. A. Akufo
5. Attorney General Gloria Afua Akufo
6. Dr. Asare Akufo
7. Nana Twumhene Yiadom
During the deliberation, the committee was initially informed that one of the candidates, Kojo Kesse Antwi, had substantial financial commitment and could not be available. However, the Abrewatia, Lily Agyeman – who is the direct aunt of Odehye Kesse Antwi – informed members of the committee at the meeting that the real reason for Kesse’s unavailability was that he had tattooed his body extensively.
She also told the committee that Kesse had disciplinary problems from his teenage years. They also found out that Kesse’s tattoo images were on Facebook and had become the subject of commentary on public radio and that, on a short visit to Accra from the US, he was invited and his body inspected by three members of the committee (made up of Abrewatia Lily Agyeman, Odehye Okoampa and Gloria Akuffo). They, indeed, confirmed Kesse had tattoo on his body.
The committee said, in view of this development, the more detailed research into Odehye Kesse’s character concluded that there were serious doubts about his suitability for the office of Okuapehene.
In spite of the unanimous decision of the committee to disqualify the tattooed Kesse, the Bemuhene and Abrwaa Tiaa Lilly made a sudden turn-around to nominate the tainted candidate who she inspected and disqualified Together with the Bemuhene they are defiant and insistent on imposing the disqualified candidate on Okuapeman, a traditional area which is, ironically, noted for unity, orderliness and respect for authority and due process.
All the six divisions of the Akuapem State (Gyase at Amanokrom, Adonten at Aburi, Kronti at Akropong, Nifa at Adukrom, Benkum at Larteh and Kyidom at Mamfe) seem to be holding their breath in suspense as the peace in the area is threatened by this defiant stance of imposing a tattooed young man on them as the next Akuapehene.
With the demise of Oseadeeyo Addo Dankwa III, it seems the Traditional Area interred the immediate past Okuapehene with the traditional humility associated with the people of Okuapeman.
The Akuapem paramountcy has been characterized by strife and dissension since 1907. Records at the National Archives indicate that in 1895 when Nana F.W. Kwasi Akuffo took over the mantle from his uncle, he struggled to rule until he gave way to Nana Owusu Ansah in October 1907, who also had a difficult tenure till 1914 when he bowed out.
Nana Ofori Kuma II took over in 1914 from his elder brother, Nana Owusu Ansah, and faced similar internal and external wrangling till he bowed out eventually in June 1919.
For four years, there was no king in Akuapem; it was not because there was no qualified candidate but because different groups of Osiahene had their interests. Litigation and dissension followed.
Eventually, Nana F.W. Kwasi Akuffo returned to the stool in 1923. He passed away suddenly in 1927. And for three years, there was no king in Akuapem. The problem was whether to allow Lawyer J.B. Koranteng to return or they should look for another person. In 1930, Nana Addo Dankwa II was given the nod as the Omanhene by the government.
Another problem arose. Three of the divisional chiefs protested against the installation of Nana Addo Dankwa II. Why? They had their preferred candidate. It took the intervention of the district commissioner for the three divisional chiefs to swear the oath of allegiance to the Omanhene in 1931.
Unfortunately, by December 1931, Nana was taken ill. Nana Yaw Boafo (the Senior Divisional Chief) was made to act as Omanhene. By February 1932, Nana was gone.
The one to succeed Nana Addo Dankwa II became another problem. Lawyer J.B. Koranteng was still in the race. Another group also wanted Lawyer Offei Darko Awere.
Sadly, on May 17 while the Asiahenefo had gathered in the palace to present Lawyer Darko Awere as the omanhene elect, another group was parading Lawyer Koranteng in the street as Omanhene.
Lawyer Awere, on May 20, wrote to the district commissioner to decline the offer.
With no option for Asiahenefo now, like Nana Kwasi Akuffo, Nana Ofori Kuma II was reinstalled as Omanhene and, interestingly, within that era, he ruled the longest: from 1932-42. Nana Kwadade II followed and ruled from 1942-1945.
In 1945, with the exit of Nana Kwadade, Lawyer Offei Darko Awere who declined the nomination in 1932 due to disputes, this time accepted the offer as Omanhene with the stool name, Nana Kwame Fori II. Soon afterwards tension mounted. By 1949, he had abdicated.
Nana Twumhene ascended the Ofori Kuma Stool from 1949-1959 and gave way to Nana Kwame Fori II again from 1959. In 1974, which is recent history, many people saw what happened when Oseadeeyo was nominated and enthroned as the paramount chief.
Reign of Oseadeeyo Addo Dankwa
As a scholar interested in the history of his ancestors, Oseadeeyo did his best to preserve that unity even though there were challenges, especially with the imbroglio in Akuapem in 1994. Peace prevailed in Akuapem in 2013 and last year, all chiefs and people celebrated the 40th anniversary of Oseadeeyo’s reign together.
The contribution of Oseadeeyo to peace in Akuapem should not be destroyed. We should change the direction of history in our time. Since there is a Declaration Order Customary Law (Akwapim State) Order, 1960 (LI 32) made under Act No 20 of 1958, Let the LI work.